The beard and long hair are both present and correct.
And with his flowing linen robes and beatific smile he certainly does a fine impression of a holy man.But to his believers in this remote corner of Siberia, Sergei Torop, a former traffic policeman, is the literal reincarnation of none other than Jesus Christ
Torop, 48, is the spiritual leader of at least 5,000 devoted followers, among them intellectuals, artists and professionals who flock to worship him in the small isolated village of Petropavlovka – more than 2000 miles from Moscow.
Torop was ‘reborn’ as ‘Vissarion’ in 1991 just as Russia was facing a crisis of confidence following the collapse of the iron curtain.
He is just the latest example of Russia’s predilection for ‘personality cults’ – a national obsession that leads back all the way to the days of Rasputin.
Both Lenin and Stalin tapped into the Russian people’s eagerness to embrace powerful figures and actively fostered the almost religious fervour with which they were worshipped.
After time spent in the Army, Torop had been working as a traffic policeman on the night shift in the small Siberia town of Minusinsk until he was made unemployed.
Suddenly something ‘awoke’ inside him, he says, and he instantly knew that he was the second coming of Christ – 2,000 years after he was first crucified.